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The Influence of Previous Traumatic Experiences on
Haitian Child Refugees' Conceptualization of Fear

By: Jessy Guler, Courtney Guler, and Dr. Judit Szente | Mentor: Dr. Judit Szente

Haitian History and Culture

The Republic of Haiti is located in the Caribbean Sea, residing in the western area of Hispaniola. The primary languages spoken in Haiti are French and Haitian Creole. Haiti is an impoverished, low-income country. The Haitian economy is considered the poorest economy in the Americas. Haiti has a high illiteracy rate with the majority of its people not reaching the sixth grade level in the education system.

Haiti is a country that has struggled with significant setbacks throughout the course of its history (Brown & Brown-Murray, 2010). Governmental corruption and inadequate access to resources has exposed the Haitian people to significant political violence, such as civilian demonstrations and revolts (Brown & Brown-Murray, 2010). Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, have destroyed much of Haiti's housing and killed and injured many of its people. Statistics collected after the 2010 Haitian earthquake estimated that 316,000 people were killed, 300,000 people were injured, and 1.3 million people were displaced after that natural disaster alone (United States Geological Survey, 2010). Millions of Haitian people are homeless and live outdoors with no access to electricity or clean water. The streets of Haiti have high crime rates, and women and children are frequently targets of violent attacks (Brown & Brown-Murray, 2010).

Despite Haiti's many setbacks, Haiti is rich in its culture and traditions (Bertrand, 2010). Haiti's culture derives from a diverse array of ethnic and cultural beliefs. Folk tales, legends, and Voodoo religious traditions distinctively characterize Haitian culture. Voodoo beliefs and practices commonly observed in Haitian culture foster and promote the influences of a spiritual world (Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002). Many Haitians believe that good and evil spirits eternally live among them. Haitians perform ceremonial practices in the pursuit of worshiping and invoking the spiritual world. The mystical and spiritual beliefs of Haitians have been shown to make them superstitious and mistrustful in nature (Desrosiers & St. Fleurose, 2002). Haitians' Voodoo beliefs and traditions have led to an underlying cultural stigma that individuals who suffer from diseases or mental illnesses are victims of supernatural forces.

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